Cheap Scooters

When cheap in the first place turns out not that cheap anymore.

One of the most commonly asked questions we are asked is “What’s your cheapest scooter?” Before answering this question, let’s ask a question in return:

What do the following brands all have in common? Baotian, CMC, Eagle Wing, EMC, Evader, GVT, Gamax, Giamoto, GT, Jianshe, Lifan, Motobella, Motovert, Nope, NSU, Ozooma, QJ, SCP, Torino, Zongshen, MCI, Adly, to name a few?

Well, these are but a few of the “no-name” brands that have all been available for sale in Australia over the last years. And as far as we can make out, they aren’t available any longer or are on the way out of their usual 3-4 years lifecycle. This means that if you’ve unfortunately bought one, you’ve probably found yourself in the unfortunate position of being unable to get spare parts, unable to find a dealer to do anything more than a basic service, and struggling to get someone to buy it off you. And this list is probably just the tip of the iceberg – there are plenty more brands and models arriving mainly from China and Taiwan all the time, and disappearing again just as quickly. Unfortunately, we get around 4 – 5 poeple coming into our shop asking for parts of brands like the ones above or some we haven’t even heard of yet – and we can’t help them!

Bait and Switch

Many scooter dealers (and motorcycle dealers) have a “cheap” scooter in their range. Their purpose is to draw the customer in, ideally so that they can then be bumped up to the model that the dealer makes most money on, or at least to stop them taking their business to another store. It’s known as the “Bait and Switch”. So their value is only as long as they are the cheapest. Once a cheaper model comes out (and you can guarantee there will), then thosen cheapies are dropped, and the new cheapy is introduced. Hence the long-term support problem – who is going to hold parts for a scooter that might not be available for sale in six months? Its why we commonly have to apologise to people who want to book their non-brand scooters in for a service – if we can’t get the parts, we can’t do the service.

Scooter Quality?

The other big problem with scooters that are brought in by the container load is that the quality is often debatable. Seriously, you can buy these scooters by the container for less than $500 per unit, and sometimes a lot less. This isn’t a cheap DVD player which if it goes wrong its just a waste of cash. If one of these things let you down on the road, its your backside that’s on the line. But, aren’t these tested to comply with Australian Design Rules (ADRs)? Well yes they are. But ADRs aren’t a quality check, they are just to make sure that the vehicles comply with certain rules, such as that the indicators are a certain distance from the headlight, or that the vehicle has two mirrors etc. There is no test of quality, longevity or robustness. And just because you know someone that has got one and has had no problems with it, there is absolutely no guarantee that yours will be the same. The manufacturers are known to change parts at will with cheaper components so what you get might not be the same as your mates anyway! Moreover when they change parts they often leave the same part number – which can be very frustrating when the part you order turns up, but doesn’t fit!

Scooter Reliability

The next problem is reliability. Many of these vehicles are built for asian domestic markets where parts are cheap and labour is plentiful and also cheap. If something goes wrong over there, the guy down the road can probably knock something together to fix it for a few dong. Over here you are paying full workshop rates, so a number of small fixes can soon add up. But you want to know that when you come down to your garage in the morning that when you turn the key and press the button that your scooter will start.

Scooter Security

Security isn’t considered often enough in the excitement of getting a new scoot, and again its another area where cheap scooters are vulnerable. Check whether you can stick your hand up under the front cover above the mudguard. If you can reach the wiring, then so can a thief. You won’t be able to tell that the steering lock is robust or not, but we know how flimsy they often are because we’ve seen them. And once broken, it’ll never work again without a high chance of the ignition mechanism breaking!

Servicing Costs

The ongoing support costs should also be taken into consideration.  How often do they need to be serviced?  Running in services at 500km AND 1000km??  Thereafter every 2,500km or 3,000km?? Our 50cc scooters need their first service at 1,000km, and thereafter every 5,000km or once a year.  For most people, once a year is usually all that is required.  And for our bigger scooters some have services every 6,000km, but most every 10,000km or every year!

Scooter Resale Value

And finally, when you’ve had enough of it, you’ve got to try and sell it. And since no-one has heard of the brand, you’ll be lucky to get a few hundred bucks for it. Contrast that with some of our lower cost models, where its not unusual that they change hands for only a few hundred dollars less than the price they were new! Hard to believe, but true. Our top selling 50cc, the Piaggio Zip 50 2T (made by the same guys who make Vespa and has the same engine), retails for $2,190 at the time of writing and we’ve seen some used models changing hands for $1,700. Quality holds its value!

In Conclusion

So what is our response when someone asks us which is our cheapest scooter? Well, our answer is that we don’t sell cheap scooters, though we do sell some very good value-for-money ones. We did sell cheap ones when we started out, and we quickly realised that it just wasn’t worth the pain to our customers or to ourselves. So we know from hard and bitter experience what we are talking about. The reality is that if its priced at significantly under 2k rideaway, you’ve really got to ask yourself if its even worth that money.

We know for sure that we lose a good number of potential customers because we don’t have an el-cheapo scooter in our range. But conversely we also retain a higher percentage of customers than other dealers because we haven’t sold them a lemon. And at the end of the day, our aim is to create happy scooter riders, and until we see any evidence to the contrary you won’t be finding any cheap scooters here.  Sorry.

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